Middle Grade Reviews

Review: High Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson

Review: High Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson



Norva nudged the bag with her foot and an arm flopped out of the top. On the hand was a ring on each finger. This was a body and this body was Hugo. 

The game was over. 

(From High Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson. P37). 



The Tri Estate is home to budding detectives Nik and Norva, and they’ve just found resident Hugo dead in the garbage chute. Worse than that, their Dad is the only person with access to paint cans like the one which probably hit Hugo’s head, and the pair were witnessed falling out at a recent meeting.

100% certain their Dad isn’t guilty, however bad it looks, Nik and Norva set to work investigating all the possible suspects. And what’s this message Hugo received about the clock? The girls know Hugo dealt in antiques. Could he possibly have been killed over a valuable timepiece?

A cosy mystery with a Twenty-First century setting.



A new detective duo is on the block. Nik and Norva are the sister sleuths to rival all others. Until now, their investigations have covered fairly minor things, but suddenly there is a real crime with big stakes. They rise to the challenge like true pros and the result is a story which kept me turning the pages.

We have a great group of suspects, big questions about how the murder was possible and a strange message which was left for the victim before his death. Added to that is a great cast of side characters like George (the cool kid on the block who gets everywhere. Sees things) and Katie (whose job as a police officer has taken her away from The Tri, but whose heart still belongs with that community). The voices are so authentic that it was like being back in London. I grew up on the Central Line and recognised too well the divisions shown in the story. The communities living around the corner from each other but figurative worlds about.

Most importantly, this story reflected London authentically, in a way I have seen in very few children’s stories. Not so many years ago, the voices of my neighbours and friends weren’t reflected in fiction. I lived in this amazing place that was like the whole world pushed into a few square miles, but the world inside fiction was white and middle-class. This is still an issue because, although stories like High Rise Mystery are being published, only a tiny percentage have main characters who are not white. A big thumbs-up to Sharna Jackson for capturing the many voices and faces of London.

Anybody who follows my Twitter will know how much I love Nik’s character. From the opening pages I knew that, in many ways, Nik was like me. What caught my attention was the way she summarises situations in percentages. Whatever the question is, Nik wants the percentage breakdown. She’s analytical and quick to spot the significance of small details which other characters overlook. Her voice was so real I felt more like I had met her than read about her in a story, and I can’t wait to catch up with her next adventure.

A modern-day mystery which will appeal to fans of Murder Most Unladylike and another hit from new kids on the block Knights Of.  


Thanks to Colour Pr and Knights Of for my gifted copy of High Rise Mystery. Opinions my own.

Middle Grade Reviews

Review: Knights And Bikes by Gabrielle Kent



‘The knights who left decided that the treasure was cursed. They wanted to return it, but one night the whole castle just disappeared without a trace.

No one knew what happened to it, or the knights, or their pile of treasure. I reckon they all fought each other to little pieces, then they rotted and their eyes fell out and now their skellingtons guard the treasure from anyone who comes looking for it.’

(Knights And Bikes by Gabrielle Kent. P23.)



Penfurzy Island is the best home in the world. There’s a scrapyard, a tor and a not-so-busy caravan park where Demelza lives. When another girl appears in the middle of the night, Demelza is determined to prove that exciting things do happen on Penfurzy, starting with the legend of the Penfurzy Knights and their missing treasure.

Then Demelza’s Dad makes a terrible announcement: he is going to sell the caravan park.

Can Demelza, her new friend Nessa and Honkers the goose find the treasure in time to save the caravan park? Who is Nessa anyway, and what is she doing on Penfurzy? Action and adventure and foam swords abound in this Retro-adventure.



Remember the games you played between five and eleven-or-so? The ones where you and your friends could take on anything with a weapon (be it a toy sword, invisible ray-gun or silly string), transport (skateboard, bike or scooter) and a pinch of imagination. Knights And Bikes conjures up those games in a way which will make adult readers nostalgic. The best part of all? The Penfurzy Knights are real.

I loved the realistic setting. Lots of quest narratives are about children taken out of the ordinary. Children with special powers or equipment or all-powerful mentors. Nessa and Demelza are ordinary kids with a slice of attitude. They know they can do anything if only they pedal the fastest.

The story is set in the 1980s – a move which will be popular with many parents of current middle-grade readers. Novice writers are often told that children aren’t interested in the recent past. The advice is not to lose sight of modern childhood in favour of your own. I’ve always found this a pity – children are generally receptive and open to stories set in other periods of history and I think it is important for children to be able to place their special adults on a timeline and to understand what made their childhoods different.

I also liked that the nostalgia wasn’t rose-tinted. The bad (see the chain-smoking worker) is shown alongside the brilliant.

Knights Of is a brand-new publisher whose list for 2019 is looking very exciting. They are on a mission to publish voices which are underrepresented in children’s publishing, and they’ve already found some fabulous and exciting stories. Knights And Bikes was longlisted for the Blue Peter award and I’m we’ll hear more from this publisher in the near future.